The Chargers’ crown jewel of their 2022 free agent class is undoubtedly cornerback J.C. Jackson. I mean, how productive and confident do you have to be as a defensive back to literally give yourself the nickname, “Mr. INT”? Either way, that’s exactly the type of player the Bolts have been missing in their cornerback room for some time now.
Heck, the guy single-handedly had more interceptions this past season (eight) than the entire Chargers secondary (seven). The Bolts could not have snagged a better player to fix this chronic lack of creating turnovers.
Now, why don’t we take a second to get to know the team’s newest playmaker? A big shoutout to Bernd Buchmasser of Pats Pulpit for giving us a hand with this.
1.) What type of player are the Chargers getting in Jackson?
If I had to describe Jackson with one word, it would be “scrappy.” Not only did he join the league as a rookie free agent and worked his way up to become New England’s CB1 — one of the best cornerbacks in football — by 2021, he did so by playing a blue-collar, physical brand of football.His first ever training camp with the team already was proof of that. Jackson did not appear to be intimidated in any way by lining up opposite the likes of Tom Brady, and already showed many of the skills that allowed him to develop into the player that he is today.He was not afraid to get physical with the receivers on the other side of him, but also was active in run support. He showed a knack for the football and showed the proper aggressiveness to get it. And no matter what the Patriots’ coaches asked him to do, he did it at a high level and continued to do so throughout his career in New England.
2.) How did Jackson become such an interception magnet? Was it mainly scheme? Athletic ability? Maybe some luck?
They don’t call you Mr. INT if you don’t pick off passes. Jackson had a lot of those in his fours years in New England — 25 to be exact — and to credit all of them to just one factor would be a mistake.The Patriots’ press-man scheme put him in a position to attack the ball whenever his opponent was out of position; he possesses the ball skills to take advantage of erroneous passes thrown his way; he knows how to read quarterbacks’ eyes and has impressive reactionary skills; he is a pretty good route-runner and able to undercut the intended receiver.Look no further than his game against the Panthers last season. Jackson had two interceptions that day, including one returned 88 yards for at touchdown.That pick-six started with an overthrow by Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold. Jackson caught the uncontested ball in from his drop position in New England’s zone coverage in a classic case of “right spot, right time.”The second pick saw him get inside position against D.J. Moore and high-point the football for a takeaway in the end zone.Yes, some luck was involved with some of Jackson’s picks. To repeatedly be in the right position, however, also takes a lot of skill. He surely has that.
3.) How should the Chargers utilize Jackson in their defense? Do you expect him to play a similar role or will his duties change in Brandon Staley’s scheme?
Jackson comes from a press-man scheme in New England, that featured a lot of single-high safety looks and put him on an island versus the opponents’ number one receiver. He showed that he can play that role successfully, which leads me to believe that the Chargers should not have to shy away from using him in a similar fashion.One thing the Patriots are above all else, however, is versatile. They move between zone and man, single-high, two-high, Cover 0, you name it.The Chargers, as far as I can tell, are also willing to change or disguise their looks on a regular basis; that’s what you can do when you have some A-grade safeties such as Derwin James. Because of this I think Jackson that Jackson is a good fit: he has shown that he can carry out various assignments.That said, the key in all of this will be to use him according to his strengths — most prominently his physicality and reactionary skills. If Staley and Renaldo Hill do that, I am not worried about Jackson making a positive impact right away.